You are here

View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3d

Printer-friendly version

View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3d

Ethan Smith

[beginning of page 97]

Managers in New York, probably allude to such tradition? One of them says; “Brothers, we have long since been told, that the red men would, one day, live like white men, and have houses and food like them. These things are long coming to pass. I wish it was so. I have now grown old, and have not seen it.”

In the journals of Rev. Mr. Butrick among the Cherokees, making an excursion among the Indians, he says of a certain chief; “Few men in any nation understand the art of pleasing, and of rendering their conversation agreeable, better than he. We made known to him the object of our journey. He appeared very thankful, and told us he would lay the subject before the other chiefs, and let us know the result of their consultation. After some conversation, his wife, an old woman, told us, that when she was a small child, the old people used to say that good people would come to instruct the Cherokees at some future period; and that perhaps she and others of her age would live to see the day. And now she thought that, perhaps, we and the other missionaries had come to give them that instruction.”

This traditionary opinion, among the different tribes, (noted also by Mr. Adair, Dr. Boudinot, and others,) it seems, must have been handed down from ancient prophecy of their restoration. They had indeed been seeking the word of God, (according to a prophecy in Amos, of their famine of the word,) but had not found it. God in mercy grant they may now speedily find it.

Dr. Boudinot gives an account of a speech of Cornplant, a chief in the six nations of Indians, expostulating with the head of department of our states, on account of lands taken from his people.

This chief had told his people we should not treat them thus; and they were now ready to tear him in pieces, because we had done it. After various affecting remarks, he proceeds; “Father, we will not conceal from you that the Great Spirit, and not man, has preserved Cornplant (his own name) from the hands of his own nation. For they asked continually, where is the land on which our children are to lie down?--You told us (say they) that a line drawn from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario, would mark forever our bounds on the east; and a line from Beaver Creek to Pennsylvania, would mark it on the west. But we see that it is not so. For first one, and then another comes, and takes it away by order of that people, who you told us promised to secure it to us forever. Cornplant is silent; for he has nothing to answer. When the sun goes down, Cornplant opens his heart before

[beginning of page 98]

the Great Spirit. And earlier than the sun appears again upon the hills, he gives thanks for his protection during the night. For he feels that among men become desperate by the injuries they sustain, it is God only that can preserve him. Cornplant loves peace. All that he had in store, he has given to those who have been robbed by your people, lest they should plunder the innocent to repay themselves.”

The original peaceable and hospitable character of the Indians testifies much relative to their traditional religion as having come down from a divine origin. I might here multiply quotations; but shall content myself with two. These I shall preface with a remark, that the Indian cruelties to our people have been manifestly occasioned by the injuries they have received from various of our people, and by their own traditionary notions, which they think accord with these injuries, that the white people are out of the covenant of the Great Spirit once made with their fathers, are the accursed people, and may well be exterminated.

But let us hear the testimony of Christopher Columbus, as given in Edwards’ West Indies, relative to the peaceable and hospitable temper of the natives of our land when he first discovered this continent. Writing to his royal Master and Mistress in Spain, he says; “I swear to your majesties, that there is not a better people in the world than these (natives of America;) more affectionate, affable, or mild. They love their neighbours as themselves. Their language is the sweetest, the softest,, and most cheerful; for they always speak smiling.” An old native approaching him with a basket of summer fruit, said, (as he seemed to have some fear of the designs of these strangers,) “If you are men subject to mortality like ourselves, you cannot be unapprized that after this life, there is another, in which a very different portion is allotted to good and bad men. If therefore you expect to die, and believe with us that every one is to be rewarded in a future state according to his conduct in the present, you will do no hurt to those who do none to you.”

My other quotation is from Dr. Boudinot. He assures us he was present when Gen. Knox gave a dinner, in the city of New York, to a deputation of Indians, sachems and a chief, from Indian nations at the west, who came with a message to our President. He says; “A little before dinner, two or three of the sachems, with their chief, went into the balcony at the front of the house; the drawing room being up stairs. From this they had a view of the city, the harbour, Long Island, &c. &c. After remaining there a short time, they returned into the room,

[beginning of page 99]

apparently dejected;--the chief more than the rest. Gen. Knox took notice of it, and said to him; Brother; what has happened to you? You look sorry! Is there any thing to distress you? He answered; I’ll tell you brother, I have been looking at your beautiful city--the great water--your fine country--and see how happy you all are. But then I could not help thinking that this fine country, and this great water were once ours.--Our ancestors lived here. They enjoyed it as their own in peace. It was the gift of the Great Spirit to them and their children. At last the white people came here in a great canoe. They asked only to let them tie it to a tree, lest the water should carry it away. We consented. They then said some of their people were sick; and they asked permission to land them and put them under the shade of the trees. The ice then came, and they could not go away. They then begged a piece of land to build wigwams for the winter. We granted it to them. They then asked for some corn to keep them from starving. We kindly furnished it to them. They promised to go away when the ice was gone. When this happened, we told them they must now go away with their big canoe. But they pointed to their big guns, round their wigwams, and said they would stay there, and we could not make them go away. Afterwards more came.--They brought spirituous and intoxicating liquors with them, of which the Indians became very fond. They persuaded us to sell them some land. Finally, they drove us back, from time to time, into the wilderness, far from the water, the fish and the oysters. They have destroyed our game. Our people are wasted away. And we live miserable and wretched; while you are enjoying our fine and beautiful country. This makes me sorry, brother; and I cannot help it.”

Dr. Boudinot informs of the Indians at Yazous and Washtulu, at the south; --of their destructions by the governor of New Orleans, early the last century. The unprovoked cruelties against them are enough to break a heart of stone. They were pursued, burned, and destroyed, and their men sold at St. Domingo for slaves. Of these natives he says; “Of all the Indians they were the most polished and civilized. They had an established religion among them in many particulars rational and consistent; as likewise regular orders of priesthood. They had a temple dedicated to the Great Spirit, in which they preserved the eternal fire. Their civil polity partook of the refinement of a people apparently in some degree learned and scientific. They had kings, or chiefs,--a kind of subordinate nobility,--and the usual distinctions created by rank were well understood

[beginning of page 100]

and preserved among them. They were just, generous, humane, and never failed to extend relief to the objects of distress and misery. They were remarkable for not deeming it glorious to destroy the human species; and therefore seldom waged any other than [defensive] war.”

Col. Smith, in his history of New Jersey, gives information of the original inhabitants, which have a striking bearing on our subject. He gives an extract from the noted Indian interpreter, Conrad Wiser. He says; “I write this to give an account of what I have observed among the Indians, in relation to their belief and confidence in a divine Being, according to the observations I made from the year 1714, the time of my youth, to this day. If by religion we mean an attraction of the soul to God, whence proceed a confidence in, and a hunger after the knowledge of him; then this people must be allowed to have some religion among them. We find among them some traits of a confidence in God alone--notwithstanding their savage deportment.”

This interpreter gives an account of his being sent, in 1737, by the governor of Virginia on a message to Indians five hundred miles distant, through a pathless dreary desert. Three Indians and a Dutchman accompanied him. Climbing a steep and high mountain on the crust, one of the Indians slipped, and slid off with rapid flight down the mountain. He came to within several paces of a perpendicular precipice over the rocks of a hundred feet; and the strings of his sack caught upon something that held him. He crawled away, and saved his life. Upon this, the writer says; that “with outstretched arms, and great earnestness, he said; I thank the Great Lord and Governor of this world, that he has had mercy upon me, and has been willing that I should live a little longer.”

Mr. Wiser gives an account that he himself was so fatigued and discouraged, before he got through this tour, that he sat down, unobserved by the Indians, under a tree, with a determination to die. They soon missed him, and returned. He told them his determination. After remaining silent a while, an old Indian said; “My dear companion; thou hast hitherto encouraged us. Wilt thou now quite give up? Remember that evil days are better than good days. For when we suffer much, we do not sin; and sin will be driven out of us by suffering. But good days cause men to sin; and God cannot extend his mercy to such. But when it goes evil with us, God has compassion on us.” These words, Mr. Wiser assures us, made him ashamed; and he got up and went as well as he could.

[beginning of page 101]

The Indians murdered a Mr. Armstrong. This Mr. Wiser was sent by Gov. Shamoken to make peace by the punishment of the murderer. After the peace was established, he informs that the chief addressed his people, and “exhorted them to thankfulness to God.” Again he said; “Thanks, thanks be to thee, thou Great Lord of the world, in that thou hast again caused the sun to shine, and hast dispersed the dark cloud. The Indians are thine.”

Col. Smith gives account of an old Indian king, Ockanickon, who died 1681. To a proprietor of New Jersey, then with him, he said, as he was about to die; “There are two ways; a broad, and a straight way. The worst and the greatest number go in the broad way; the best and the fewest in the straight way.”

It is fully evident from many sources of information that the Indians’ views of the Great Spirit, and their religion, were from their own ancient tradition; and not from any thing they ever learned from the white people after the latter came to this continent. Rev. Mr. Brainerd, the noted missionary to the Indians, informs of his meeting an Indian one hundred and thirty miles from our settlements, who had a house consecrated to religious purposes. Mr. Brainerd laboured to teach him Christianity; but some of it he utterly rejected, saying, “God had taught him his religion, and he would never turn from it.” He lamented that the Indians had grown so corrupt. He related that about five years before he (having before lived at ease as the Indians did) became greatly distressed, and thought he could not live among the Indians; and for some months he lived retired from them in the woods. At length, he said, the Great Spirit had comforted him. That since that time he had known the Great Spirit, and tried to serve him. That he loved all men, be they who they may, as he never did before. He treated Mr. Brainerd with great courtesy, and seemed hearty and affectionate in his religion; but so tenacious of his own traditional views, that he would not receive the peculiarities of Christianity.

Col. Smith, on a hunting tour among the Indians, informs of an aged Indian who seemed very devout, who praying to the Great Spirit would preface every petition with, Oh, oh, oh--.” He would prepare himself for prayer by entering a sweat-house, and for fifteen minutes putting himself into a violent perspiration. He would then burn tobacco, and pray to the Great Spirit. Col. Smith undertook to teach him something of the way of access to God revealed in the gospel. He said “he thought he was now too old to begin to learn a new religion. He should therefore continue to worship God in the way he

[beginning of page 102]

had been taught;” evidently meaning taught from Indian tradition. This old Indian had been informed something of the religion of the Roman Catholics; but he said, he did not believe the great and good Spirit ever taught them any such nonsense. He therefore concluded that the Indians’ old way of worshipping God was better.

The exploring commissioners of the United Foreign Missionary Society reported in favour of a mission being founded among the Pawnees, high up the Missouri. They gave the following account of this tribe. “The Pawnees feel and acknowledge their dependance on God. A man who has often witnessed it informed us that in their public feasts, before they eat, a man venerable for age asks a blessing, and thanks God for success in hunting, for the meat they are about to eat, for the drink, and for the wood which makes a fire to cook their provisions.” These Pawnees had never learned their religion from the whites. They were effectually out of their reach. And no straggling white traders among the western Indians were disposed to teach the Indians religion; nor would the Indians receive any instruction from them, as appears from the following. These exploring commissioners state, as one reason why a mission should be soon established among them, thus; “They are much better prepared to receive a mission than those nations who have more intercourse with the white people. Their circumstances call on you to send the gospel among them, before the wretched hordes who are ever flying from the abodes of civilization reach their vicinity, and prejudice them against our holy religion.” Their worshipping the one Great Spirit then was never learned from us. The past contiguities of the Indians to our frontiers have ever tended to subvert the religion of these natives, such as it was, and to give them a deadly prejudice against ours. No! Their religious notions (in so many respects different from all the religions of the eastern heathen world, and apparently nearly allied to the old Hebrew system) must have descended, as we have reason to apprehend, from Israel.

Listen to the religious views of the chiefs, who came to New York from beyond the Council Bluffs, in their reply to a talk with the secretary of the society, as given in the same report of the United Foreign Missionary Society which contained the reports just given. “We thank you for praying that the Great Spirit may preserve us in our long journey home.” They repeat it. “Brothers; we thank you once more for praying to the Great Spirit that we may be preserved and carried home in safety to our wives and children.” Such numerous instances of Indian traditions form a whole, which most powerfully

[beginning of page 103]

evinces that the religion of our American natives is altogether of a brighter and different cast from the religion of the rest of the heathen world. What account can be given of this?

Those commissioners to the Pawnees further inform, that they invited the Pawnees to a Sabbath meeting. The commissioners prayed for those Pawnees (about to take a tour, either hunting, or for some other object) that they might go and return in safety. Two of their men were now at home sick. After the Pawnees retired, “they expressed their apprehensions (say the commissioners) that the sick men would never return (from their proposed tour,) because they were not present to have these ministers pray for them.”

Dr. Boudinot informs that a chief of the Creek nation was some time since at Philadelphia on his way to New York, with his retinue, and in company with Col. Butler, on a commission of peace with the United States. He was a chief of great note and dignity in his nation, and “of much better demeanour in his whole conduct (the Doctor remarks) than any Indian he had ever seen.” A female limner had, unobserved by the chief, taken his likeness, which she presented to him. He was astonished, and much pleased; and assured her, by his interpreter, “that he often spake to the Great Spirit; and the next time he did so, he would remember her.” This chief and Col. Butler passing on, they were overset in the stage, and both wounded. After the surgeons had dressed their wounds, the chief addressed the colonel, through his interpreter, as follows. “Never mind this, brother. It will soon be well. This is the work of the evil spirit. He knows we are going to effect a work of peace. He hates peace; and loves war. Never mind it. Let us go on, and accomplish our business; we will disappoint him.” He had some reason to say it was the work of the evil spirit; for the stupid stage-driver just stopped at a tavern to run in and get a glass of rum, leaving his horses loose at the door; upon which they started, ran, and upset the stage.

In the younger days of Dr. Boudinot, the following incident occurred. Two fine young missionaries were sent by the Society of Scotland (some members of which society were in our land, and the Doctor was one of them) to the natives west of Ohio. The chiefs were called to consult whether they would receive them. After some days in council, they dismissed them, most courteously, with the following answer;--that “they exceedingly rejoiced at the happiness of the whites, in being thus favoured by the Great Spirit; and felt very grateful that they had condescended to remember their red brethren

[beginning of page 104]

in the wilderness. But they could not help recollecting that the whites here had a people among them, who because they differed in colour, the whites had made them slaves, made them suffer great hardships, and lead miserable lives; (alluding to the black slaves then in our colonies.) Now we cannot see any reason, (said they) if a people being black will entitle the whites to deal thus with them, why a red colour would not equally justify the same treatment. We therefore determine to wait to see whether all the black people among you are made thus joyful and happy, (as you tell us your religion will make us,) before we can put confidence in your promises. We think a people who have suffered so much, and so long, by your means, would be entitled to your first attention. We therefore send back the two missionaries, with many thanks; promising that when we see the black people among you restored to freedom and happiness, we will gladly receive your missionaries.” Here was reasoning well worthy of the descendants of Abraham, and even of Solomon!

Mr. Herman, in his residence in the western regions of our continent, giving an account of the Chippeways, informs that in point of numbers, strength, and also attention to religious rites, they have greatly degenerated since their acquaintance with the white people. He speaks of them as having many tutelary gods. But they at the same time believe in one supreme God who governs all others, allowing the inferior gods considerable power and influence over mortals.

From various authors the following facts appear, that the better informed Indians hold to one God; and to spirits that he has made, good and bad. The bad have a leader over them worse than all the rest. Some of the tribes, it appears, have come to call these subordinate spirits (which seem but a traditionary notion of angels) gods; while yet the Great Spirit is the Creator, and is over all. This degeneracy is a most natural event among savages. Even among the ancient Hebrews, both angels and civil rulers were called gods.

Mr. Herman relates several customs, which appear like having a Hebrew origin. Among the Chippeways, each lad at the age of twelve or fifteen years, must keep a penitential fast alone in the woods for thirty or forty days; his friends carrying him, from time to time, a kind of unpalatable food, just enough to sustain life. We recollect no such rite as this in heathen mythology; but the scriptures of Israel inform of Elijah’s fast of forty days.

These Indians, Mr. Herman informs, observe their solemn fasts when going to war. And each warrior has his religious symbol, which

[beginning of page 105]

in some respects answers well to Israel’s ancient ark of the covenant; and essentially the same use is made of it, as of the ark in the other tribes of Indians described. It is a sack, containing a few aromatic plants, or roots, and the feathers or skins of some rare bird, or small animal. These contents the owner imagines possess some kind of hidden virtue, which renders the owner invulnerable.

Major Long, speaking of the Omawhaws, far up the Missouri, says, they believe in one God, “the Creator and preserver of all things, the fountain of mystic medicine;”--meaning, the healer of their evils. This tribe of Chippeways, (Mr. Herman informs,) call their sacred sack, their “medicine bag.” The contents appear to be essentially the same, and for the same end, with the contents of the sacred ark in other tribes;--the symbol of the presence of the Great Spirit. Hence Mr. Herman informs that the chief captain, when going to war, harrangues his warriors, and exhorts them to reflect on the long fast performed in their youth; and adds; “Moreover, young men, it behoves you all to take special care of your medicine bags; for their contents ought of all things to be most precious to you, especially during such an expedition as the one on which you now embark. Should the medicine bag of any one be placed on the ground, and any one inadvertently seat himself upon it, the first person who perceives him in that situation, ought instantly to spring up, and push the other flat on his back. This violent act will prevent any ill consequences from the unintended offence.” Here it is evident their medicine bag, so called, is a religious symbol, as is the holy ark of the other tribes. And essentially the same care must be taken not to offend the Great Spirit by any improper use of it. The lapse of ages among illiterate savages scattered in unknown distant tribes, would naturally produce as great a variation among different tribes, in relation to this ancient venerable symbol--the ark of the covenant--as is this difference between these western more savage tribes, and tribes less savage farther to the south. But they unite in the essential points. Both are sacred symbols borne to their wars. Both contain their most consecrated things; and each must be treated with the most sacred caution. No other account can be so rationally given of the origin of these Indian symbols, as the law of the holy ark in Israel.

The Rev. Dr. Morse, in his report of his tour among the Indians at the west, made under commission from our government, in 1820, to ascertain the actual state of the Indians in our country, says; “It is matter of surprise, that the Indians, situated as they have been for so

[beginning of page 106]

many successive ages and generations, without books or knowledge of letters, or of the art of reading or writing, should have preserved their various languages in the manner they have done. Many of them are copious, capable of regular grammatical analysis, possess great strength, gracefulness, and beauty of expression. They are highly metaphorical in their character; and in this and other respects resemble the Hebrew. This resemblance in the language, and the similarity of many of their religious customs, &c. to those of the Jews, certainly give plausibility to the ingenious theory of Dr. Boudinot, exhibited in his interesting work, entitled “Star in the West.” A faithful and thorough examination of the various languages of the Indian tribes, would probably show that there are very few of them that are throughout radically different.--The differences of these languages are mostly differences of dialect.”

The various Indian tribes, visited by Dr. Morse, had their Great Spirit. Speaking of the manners and customs of the Sauks, Fox tribe, Pattowattamies, and others, he says; “Other feasts to the Great Spirit are frequently made by these Indians.” Of one of these feasts, he says; “They seat themselves in a circle on the ground; when one of the guests places before each person a wooden bowl with his portion of the feast, and they commence eating. When each man’s portion is eaten, the bones are collected, and put into a wooden bowl, and thrown into the river, or burnt. The whole of the feast must be eaten. If any one cannot eat his part of it, he passes his dish, with a piece of tobacco to his neighbor, and he eats it; and the guests then retire. Those who make the feast never eat any part of it themselves. They say they give their part of it to the Great Spirit.” Here seems manifestly the same feast noted by other authors among other and different tribes in the different parts of the continent, and probably answering to the passover in ancient Israel. The different and distant tribes have their circumstantial differences; while yet certain things indicate that the feast is a broken tradition of the passover. In Exodus xii. 8, speaking of the passover, it is commanded;--“With bitter herbs shall ye eat it.” Why does the Indian, (in this account of Dr. Morse,) accompany his portion of this singular Indian feast to his neighbor with a piece of tobacco? Is it not, probably, for the same reason that other distant tribes partake of their similar feast answering to this with bitter vegetables, as has been stated? And what heathen religion could ever have originated such a practice? This seems necessarily to have originated in the ancient law of the passover.

[beginning of page 107]

Another tradition from a Hebrew rite the Doctor states. He says; “The women of these nations are very particular to remove from their lodges to one erected for that particular purpose, at such seasons as were customarily observed by Jewish women, according to the law of Moses. No article of furniture ever used in this lodge, is ever used in any other; not even the steel and flint with which they strike fire. No man approaches this lodge, while a woman occupies it.” The existence of this extensive Indian rite is fully ascertained. And of its origin there appears but very little room to doubt.

This writer says; “The belief of these Indians relative to their creation is not very unlike our own. Masco, one of the chiefs of the Sauks, informed me that they believed that the Great Spirit in the first place created from the dust of the earth two men; but finding that these alone would not answer his purpose, he took from each man a rib, and made two women.” Of the descendants of these two pair, they say, “that they were all one nation, until they behaved so badly, that the Great Spirit came among them, and talked different languages to them; which caused them to separate and form different nations.” Here are manifest broken fragments of Moses’ history of creation, and of the confusion of language at Babel. “I asked (says Dr. M.) how they supposed white men were made? He replied that Indians supposed the Great Spirit made them of the fine dust of the earth, as they know more than Indians.” Dr. M. gives an account of their holding to a future state; and to some kinds of reward for the good, and of punishments for the wicked.

He informs from a Major Cummings, that the Indians are very suspicious of some evil intent, when questioned by the Americans; and that there is no way to obtain a full knowledge of their traditions and ways, but by a long residence in their country. This may account for the fact that their traditions (which seem manifestly Hebrew) were kept so long and to so great a degree, from the knowledge of our people.

Relative to their manner of transacting public business, they informed Dr. M.; “We open our council by smoking a pipe selected for the occasion; and we address the audience through a speaker chosen for the purpose; first invoking the Great Spirit to inspire us with wisdom. We open our council in the name of the Great Spirit, and close with the same.”

He informs that the Indians “before attending on treaties, great councils, or any other important national business, always sacrifice

[beginning of page 108]

in order to obtain the good will of the Great Spirit. And adds; “There are no people more frequent or fervent in their acknowledgments of gratitude to God. Their belief in him is universal; and their confidence astonishingly strong.

Speaking of their feasts, he says; “The principal festival is celebrated in the month of August; sooner or later, as the forwardness of the corn will admit. It is called the Green Corn Dance; or more properly speaking, the ceremony of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the earth.

The question continually recurs, whence came things like these among the natives of our continent, or the American savages, unless these savages are the very tribes of Israel? No evidence is furnished that such a variety of Hebrew rites is found among any other people on earth, except the Jews. And it seems morally impossible they should have derived them from any other source than the ancient Hebrew religion.

Mr. Schoolcraft, a member of the New York Historical Society, (in his Journals of travels among the western Indians, round and beyond the western lakes, and to the mouth of the Mississippi, in 1820,) gives some accounts, which confirm some of the Indian traditions already exhibited. He speaks of attending a feast among the Sioux Indians; a feast of the first green corn. He says; “Our attention was now drawn off by the sound of Indian music which proceeded from another large cabin at no great distance; but we found the doors closed, and were informed that they were celebrating an annual feast, at which only certain persons in the village were allowed to be present; and that it was not customary to admit strangers. Our curiosity being excited, we applied to the governor, Cass, to intercede for us; and were by that means admitted. The first striking object presented was, two large kettles full of green corn, cut from the cob and boiled. They hung over a moderate fire in the midst of the cabin; and the Indians, both men and women, were seated in a large circle around them. They were singing a doleful song in a savage manner. The utmost solemnity was depicted upon every countenance. When the music ceased, as it frequently did for a few seconds, there was a full and mysterious pause, during which certain pantomimic signs were made; and it appeared as if they pretended to hold communion with invisible spirits. Suddenly the music struck up--but as we did not understand their language, it is impossible to say what they uttered, or to whom their supplications or responses were addressed. When the ceremony

[beginning of page 109]

ceased, one of the older Indians divided out all the boiled corn into separate dishes for as many heads of families as there were present, putting an equal number of ladles full into each dish. Then while the music continued, they one by one took up their dishes, and retiring from the cabin by a backward step, so that they still faced the kettles, they separated to their respective lodges; and thus the ceremony ceased.”

This writer says, “The Indians believed in the existence of a great invisible Spirit, who resides in the regions of the clouds, and by means of inferior spirits throughout every part of the earth.”

Their word for spirit, he says, is manito, which he observes, “signifies the same thing among all the tribes extending from the Arkansaw to the sources of the Mississippi; and according to M’Kenzie, throughout the arctic regions.” This word, Mr. S. remarks, with many others, strengthens the opinion “of which (he says) there appears ample grounds, that the erratic tribes of the north-western region, and of the vallies of the Mississippi, are all descended from one stock, which is presumed to have progressed from the north toward the south, scattering into different tribes, and falling from the purity of a language, which may originally have been rich and copious.” Here is good testimony to some of the points, adduced in this work, viz. that all the Indians are from one origin; all originally of one language; all from the north-west, the straits of Beering, leading from the north-east of Asia to the north-west of America; all have one God,--the Great Spirit above; and the feast of the first ripe fruits is among them extensively kept.

These Indians, Mr. S. informs, “have their good and bad manitoes,” or spirits. The Old Testament informs of holy and of fallen angels.

Mr. S. speaks of the best of authors allowing that great corruptions have crept into the Indian language; and that the remarks of some upon the supposed poverty of the language of these Americans, are very incorrect.

He speaks of some of the Indians as looking to the people of our states for aid, and says, a council which he attended with the Sandy Lake Indians, thus closed; “The Americans (meaning the United States) are a great people. Can it be possible they will allow us to suffer?”

The Rev. Lemuel Haynes informs, that about 60 years ago, he was living in Granville, Mass. A minister by the name of Ashley,

[beginning of page 110]

called on an old deacon, with whom he was living, being on his way from a mission among the Indians in the west, where he had been a considerable time. Mr. Ashley stated his confident belief that the Indians were the Israelites; for he said there were many things in their manners and customs, which were like those of ancient Israel. Various of these he stated. Mr. Haynes being then a boy, does not now recollect them. But the people he mentions as being impressed with the accounts; and the good old deacon long spake of them with much interest.

A brother minister informs me that his father was a lieutenant in the revolutionary war, and was long among the Indians; and that he became a firm believer that the Indians were the ten tribes of Israel from their traditions and rites; various of which he used to state; but which the minister does not now remember.

Various quotations have been given from Mr. Adair. It was thought when they were selected and inserted, they were amply sufficient. But it has occurred to the writer of these sheets that as he is a most material testimony, and his evidence fully substantiated, as has appeared, it must be desirable the reader should see more fully his arguments, and more of the facts by him stated under them.

His arguments that the natives of this continent are of the ten tribes are as follows. 1. Their division into tribes. 2. Their worship of Jehovah. 3. Their notion of a theocracy. 4. Their belief in the ministration of angels. 5. Their language and dialects. 6. Their manner of counting time. 7. Their prophets and high priests. 8. Their festivals, fasts, and religious rites. 9. Their daily sacrifice. 10. Their ablutions and anointings. 11. Their laws of uncleanness. 12. Their abstinence from unclean things. 13. Their marriages, divorces and punishments of adultery. 14. Their several punishments. 15. Their cities of refuge. 16. Their purifications and preparatory ceremonies. 17. Their ornaments. 18. Their manner of curing the sick. 19. Their burial of their dead. 20. Their mourning for their dead. 21. Their raising seed to a deceased brother. 22. Their change of names adapted to their circumstances and times. 23. Their own traditions; the accounts of English writers; and the testimonies given by Spanish and other writers of the primitive inhabitants of Mexico and Peru.

Some of his illustrations of these arguments will be here subjoined in his own words. Under the 1st argument. “As the nation hath its particular symbol, so each tribe, the badge from which it is denominated. The sachem of each tribe is a necessary party in

[beginning of page 111]

conveyances, and treaties, to which he affixes the mark of his tribe. If we go from nation to nation among them, we shall not find one, who doth not lineally distinguish himself by his respective family. The genealogical names, which they assume, are derived either from the name of those animals, whereof the cherubims are said in revelation to be compounded, or from such creatures as are most familiar to them. The Indians, however, bear no religious respect to the animals from whence they derive their names. On the contrary, they kill them when opportunity serves. When we consider that these savages have been above twenty centuries without the use of letters to carry down their traditions, it cannot reasonably be expected that they should still retain the identical names of their primogenial tribes. Their main customs corresponding with those of the Israelites, sufficiently clears the subject. Besides, as hath been hinted, they call some of their tribes by the names of cherubinical figures that were carried on the four principal standards of Israel.

His illustrations of the second argument, blended with those of many others, have been sufficiently given.

Under the third argument, he says: “Agreeably to the theocracy or divine government of Israel, the Indians think the Deity to be the immediate head of their state. All the nations of Indians are exceedingly intoxicated with religious pride, and have an inexpressible contempt of the white people.*1 They used to call us in their war orations, the accursed people. -- But they flatter themselves with the name of the beloved people; because their supposed ancestors, as they affirm, were under the immediate government of the Deity, who was present with them in a very peculiar manner, and directed them by prophets, while the rest of the world were aliens and outlaws to the covenant.--When the old Archimagus, or any one of their magi, is persuading the people at any one of their religious solemnities to a strict observance of the old beloved or divine speech, he always calls them the beloved or holy people, agreeably to the Hebrew epithet, Ammi (my people) during the theocracy of Israel.--It is their opinion of the theocracy, that God chose them out of all the rest of mankind as his peculiar and beloved people; which alike animates both the white, Jew, and the red American with that steady hatred against all the world except themselves; and renders them (in their opinion) hated and despised by all.”

[beginning of page 112]

His illustrations of the 4th and 5th arguments have been given with those of other authors.

Under the 6th argument he says: “They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They number their year from any of those four periods, for they have no name for a year, and they subdivide these, and count the year by lunar months, like the Israelites, who counted by moons. They begin a year at the first appearance of the first new moon of the vernal equinox, according to the ecclesiastical year of Moses. Till the 70 years captivity, the Israelites had only numeral names for the solar and lunar months, except Abib and Ethamin; the former signifying a green ear of corn; and the latter robust or valiant. And by the first of these, the Indians (as an explicative) term their passover, which the trading people call the green corn dance. ” Mr. Adair then proceeds to show more fully the similarity between the ancient Israelites and the Indians in their counting time, as has been noted.

Under the 7th argument he says: “In conformity to, or after the manner of the Jews, the Indian Americans have their prophets, high priests, and others of a religious order. As the Jews had a sanctum sanctorum, (holy of holies) so have all the Indian nations. There they deposit their consecrated vessels;--none of the laity daring to approach that sacred place. The Indian tradition says, that their fathers were possessed of an extraordinary divine spirit, by which they foretold things future, and controlled the common course of nature: and this they transmitted to their offspring, provided they obeyed the sacred laws annexed to it. Ishtoallo, (Mr. Adair says of those Indians) is the name of all their priestly order: and their pontifical office descends by inheritance to the eldest. There are some traces of agreement, though chiefly lost, in their pontifical dress. Before the Indian Archimagus officiates in making the supposed holy fire for the yearly atonement for sin, the sagan (waiter of the high priest) clothes him with a white ephod, which is a waistcoat without sleeves. In resemblance of the Urim and Thummim, the American Archimagus wears a breast plate made of a white conch shell with two holes bored in the middle of it, through which he puts the ends of an otter skin strap, and fastens a buck horn white button to the outside of each, as if in imitation of the precious stones of Urim.”

In this statement Mr. Adair exhibits evidence of which himself seems unconscious. He says the general name of all their priestly

[beginning of page 113]

order is Ishtoallo. And the name of the high priest’s waiter is Sagan. Mr. Faber (remarking upon this) thinks the former word is a corruption of Ish-da-eloah, a man of God; see original of 2 Kings, iv. 21, 22, 25, 27, 40, and other places. And of the latter word he says, “Sagan is the very name by which the Hebrews called the deputy of the high priest, who supplied his office, and who performed the functions of it in the absence of the high priest. See Calmet’s Dict. vox Sagan.”

Here then is evidence to our purpose, that those Indians should call their order of priests, and the high priest’s waiter, by those ancient Hebrew names of a man of God, and a deputy of of the high priest. How could these events have occurred, had not those natives been Hebrew, and brought down these names by Hebrew tradition?

Under the 8th argument Mr. Adair says; “The ceremonies of the Indians in their religious worship are more after the Mosaic institutions, than of pagan imitation; which could not be, if the majority of the old nation were of heathenish descent. They are utter strangers to all the gestures practised by the pagans in their religious rites. They have another appellative which with them is the mysterious essential name of God; the tetragrammaton, or great four lettered name, which they never name in common speech. Of the time and place, when and where they mention it, they are very particular, and always with a solemn air. It is well known what sacred regard the Jews had to the four lettered divine name, so as scarcely ever to mention it, but once a year, when the high priest went into the sanctuary at the expiation of sins. Might not the Indians copy from them this sacred invocation, Yo-he-wah? Their method of invoking God in a solemn hymn with that reverend deportment, and spending a full breath on each of the two first syllables of the awful divine name, hath a surprising analogy to the Jewish custom, and such as no other nation or people, even with the advantage of written records, have retained. It may be worthy of notice that they never prostrate themselves, nor bow their bodies to each other by way of salute or homage, though usual with the eastern nations; except when they are making or renewing peace with strangers, who come in the name of Yah.”

Mr. Adair proceeds to speak of the sacred adjuration of the Indians by the great and awful name of God; the question being asked, and the answer given. Yah, with a profound reverence in a bowing posture of body immediately before the invocation of Yo-he-wah; this he considers to be Hebrew, adjuring their witnesses to give true

[beginning of page 114]

evidence. He says, “It seems exactly to coincide with the conduct of the Hebrew witnesses even now on the like occasions.”

Mr. Adair’s other illustrations under this argument, in various feasts, fastings, their ark, and their ever refusing to eat the hollow of the thigh of their game, have been sufficiently given, in connexion with the testimonies of others to the same points.

Enough has also been exhibited under the 9th, 10th, and 11th arguments.

Under the 12th he says; “Eagles of every kind they esteem unclean food; likewise ravens, crows, bats, buzzards, swallows, and every species of owl.” This he considers as precisely Hebrew; as also their purifications of their priests; and purification for having touched a dead body, or any other unclean thing.

Under most of his subsequent arguments, the quotations before given have been sufficient. Under the16th he says; “Before the Indians go to war, they have many preparatory ceremonies of purification and fasting like what is recorded of the Israelites.”

Under the last argument he says; “The Indian tradition says that their forefathers in very remote ages came from a far distant country, where all the people were of one colour; and that in process of time they removed eastward to their present settlements.” He notes and confutes some idle fabulous stories which he says “sprung from the innovating superstitious ignorance of the popish priests to the south-west;” and speaks of the Indian tradition as being altogether more to be depended on. He says, “They, (the rambling tribes of northern Indians excepted,) aver that they came over the Mississippi from the westward, before they arrived at their present settlements. This we see verified in the western old towns they have left behind them, and by the situation of their old beloved towns or places of refuge lying about a west course from each different nation.”

“Ancient history (he adds) is quite silent concerning America, which indicates that it has been time immemorial rent asunder from the eastern continent. The north-east parts of Asia were also undiscovered till of late. Many geographers have stretched Asia and America so far as to join them together; and others have divided them into two quarters of the globe. But the Russians, after several dangerous attempts, have clearly convinced the world that they are now divided, and yet have a near communication together by a narrow strait in which several islands are situated, and through which there is an easy passage from the north-east of Asia to the north-west of

[beginning of page 115]

America. By this passage, it was very practicable to go to this new world, and afterward to have proceeded in quest of suitable climates.

Those who dissent from my opinion of the Indian American origin, (he adds) ought to inform us how the natives came here, and by what means they found the long chain of rites and customs so similar to the usage of the Hebrew nation, and in general dissimilar to the modes of the pagan world. Their religious rites, martial customs, dress, music, dances and domestic forms of life, seem clearly to evince also, that they came to America in early times before sects had sprung up among the Jews; which was soon after their prophets ceased; also before arts and sciences had arrived at any perfection. Otherwise it is likely they would have retained some knowledge of them.”

We learn in Dr. Robertson’s history of America, that the Mexicans had their tradition that “Their ancestors came from a remote country situated to the north-west of Mexico. The Mexicans (he says) point out their various stations as they advanced from this into the interior provinces; and it is precisely the same rout which they must have held, if they had been emigrants from Asia.”* 2

Mr. Adair says, that though some have supposed the Americans to be descendants from the Chinese; yet neither their religion, laws or customs agree in the least with those of the Chinese, which sufficiently proves that they are not of this line. And he says the remaining traces of their religious ceremonies, and civil and martial customs, are different from those of the old Scythians. He thinks, therefore, that the old opinion that the Indians are descended from the Tartars or ancient Scythians, should be exploded as weak and without foundation. Those who have advocated the affirmative have not been able to produce much, if any evidence, that any of the religious rites found among the Indians, and resembling those of ancient Israel, have ever been found among any people in the east of Asia. Such a thing cannot be expected. Those rites were arbitrary, established only in Israel; and designed to distinguish them from all other nations. It is utterly inadmissible then, to suppose these Indian rites may be accounted for, from an idea that the Indians may have learned them from other heathen nations. With very similar propriety might the unbeliever in divine revelation say that the Jews and ancient Israel derived their religion, not from God, as the bible purports, but from the

[beginning of page 116]

heathen nations, who at that time might for aught we know, have had just such religious customs.

If the aborigines derived these rites and customs from ancient Asiatic heathen; why have not some of those heathen themselves retained some of them, and disseminated them through some other parts of the world, besides the vast wilds of North and South America?

Capt. Carver is able to find that some of the people north-east of Asia once presented to some of the Russians their pipe of peace. The people of Israel, as they passed by that people in ancient days, may have caught this custom from them; as none pretend this was a Hebrew rite. Or, those few people thus noted in Asia may have caught this custom from the Indians over Beering’s Straits. But this is nothing, compared with the many Hebrew rites found among the natives of America.

Capt. Carver, who travelled five thousand miles among the Indians of North America, states some customs observed by some of them in relation to marriage and divorce, which seem much like those of ancient Israel. He says; “When one of their young men has fixed on a young woman he approves of, he discovers his passion to her parents, who give him an invitation to come and live with them in their tent. He accepts the offer, and engages to reside in it for a whole year in the character of a menial servant. This however is done only while they are young men, and for their first wife; and not repeated like Jacob’s servitude. When this period is expired, the marriage is solemnized.”

“When from any dislike (he adds) a separation takes place, for they are seldom known to quarrel, they generally give their friends a few days notice of their intention, and sometimes offer reasons to justify their conduct.” Some little ceremonies follow; and he says, “The separation is carried on without any murmurings, or ill will between the couple or their relations.” Probably no other nation has such a resemblance in this respect to ancient Israel.

Capt. Carver says of the Indians “wholly unadulterated with the superstitions of the church of Rome;” “It is certain they acknowledge one Supreme Being, or giver of life, who presides over all things--the Great Spirit; and they look up to him as the source of good--who is infinitely good. They also believe in a bad spirit, to whom they ascribe great power. They hold also, that there are good spirits of a less degree, who have their particular departments, in which they are constantly contributing to the happiness of mortals.”


1. *Within 20 years this trait of Indian character is much meliorated.

2. *B. 4, page 41-2-3.


Chapter 3e >>